As we have been challenged this weekend, the great commission is actually our “every day” commission as believers. We are all to be disciple-making by lifestyle. To help us all get closer to that goal, I would like to direct your attention to the 29th chapter of Acts.
As you notice from your Bibles, it isn’t there, YET.
The last chapter of Acts is still being written.
It is being written tonight here and across the world.
It is being written in blood, sweat, tears, and prayers.
And it is exactly what God left us here on earth to accomplish for Him.
WHAT IS GOD’S REPORT ON YOUR LIFE?
What will be written by the Lord in Acts 29, about you and me?
This is the great fall seasons with all the football games and the crisp cool weather. It is a time of memories for me. I have been telling my boys about my early days when I was on the Haslett (Michigan) football team. Over the years various coaches would address us on the teams and try to get us “fired up” for the game. That was always and exciting time because we were quite committed already.
We had already shown our dedication by joining the team, working out most of the summer in the heat, running endless gut wrenching cross country miles, practicing plays until we were able to do them instinctively and so on.
But now at the moment of the actual game “fired up” meant that we were to get even more fully engaged in the game, commit to again play our best, sacrifice our strength and even comfort by playing even harder, commit there in the locker room to not lose focus, to remember the plays we had been taught, to unselfishly work together as a team and so on. That is team athletics or team sports – whether football, basketball, wrestling or whatever.
Later in college days I moved to a new kind of sports involvement. I was a spectator and a fan. Again we in the stands were encouraged to get “fired up” for the game. This involved wearing team colors, getting season passes, scheduling Friday nights or Saturdays so as to not miss any games, actually coming to all the games, sitting together with our side, paying attention to the game, knowing the team members, cheering at the right times and in a loud and supportive way.
Some of the more “on fire” folks would not only do all that but they went further by really dressing up, painting their faces wit team colors and symbols, bringing big banners, getting there early, and generally be everywhere cheering and carrying on. That is quite a familiar setting for most of us. In fact the majority of sports and athletic events are pursued by the minority (the athletes) as they are cheered on by the majority (the fans).
Today I ask you these two questions:
First, “Where are you in the game tonight?” Are you on the team and actually working out, practicing, playing and “on fire” for the game? Or are you in the stands and “on fire” for the team?
And secondly: “Where did the Coach, the God of the Universe through His Son our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, ask us to be?”
Most of us I would guess are in the stands as spectators. We are quite committed and zealous.
We pay for our ticket to the game (that means we give in the church offerings);
We come to home games (that means we attend church faithfully); and
We annually go to an Home Coming game (that means the missions conference).
Some of us even go see the team away at training camp (that means going on short term missions trips); and
We encourage the players (that means we support missionaries and collect their cards with their pictures and stats);
Thus, we are good fans as we: wear the colors, support the team, yell and cheer for them, and so on.
WHAT DOES YOUR COACH (& OWNER) WANT?
Now for the hard part, in this team and fan comparison, I ask again which of those two places did the Coach, the God of the Universe through His Son our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who purchased us with His own blood, ask us to be?
Which group is the one Jesus outlines, demonstrates and sets up in His Ministry?
Which location is explained in the New Testament?
Where did everyone who actually met Jesus on earth end up?
What did Jesus intend for us to do and to be?
Did He set up a Team and fans or just a Team; and we have split it into team and fans?
I think many of you know where I am going with this.
The History of the Game and the Rule Book (God's Word) has a clear answer.
Jesus Christ our Lord only set up a Team that actually practiced, worked out together, played in all the games and so on. There was ONLY A TEAM, there were no non-participating, non-players who could just cheer, come and watch, and enjoy the games. In other words there were no 1st Century spectators, everyone was on the Team and they all cheered each other on from the field, not from in the stands!
EVERYONE PLAYED AT THE START
Look with me at Christ's last words and the impact they had on that 1st generation of our family. Matthew 28:19-20; Mark 16:15; Luke 24:47; Acts 1:8, 8:4. Wow they heard and they obeyed!
Sharing the good news of Jesus Christ with the world is the theme of the book of Acts. Chapters 1–7 tell of its spread “in Jerusalem”; then chapters 8–11describe the witness “in all Judea and Samaria”; and chapters 12–28 “to the ends of the earth.” So intense was the flame of the gospel that soon Christians could be found in all parts of the Empire.
“The comprehensiveness of the early church’s outreach—from their homeland and on out to the ends of the world—forbids the evangelistic schizophrenia to which we so easily fall prey—lavishing our attention on foreign missions while neglecting our neighbors, or attending to the immediate needs around us while millions overseas have never heard about Jesus.
We need balance. We must reach our neighbors and the world with our gospel witness, our social witness, our money, our time, ourselves, our offspring. We must put all we have and are in the hands of Christ and allow him to use it all in his way, in his time, for others’ salvation, for his glory.”
BELIEVERS SHARED GOD'S WORD
Thirty-one different words are used to explain the over 160 scenes in the Book of Acts where Christians verbally communicate the Gospel. Of these, the words “evangelize or preach the Gospel proclaim, announce, testify, speak boldly, speak freely, and prophesy” suggest what might be thought of as formal delivery. Yet they represent less than a third of all the usages of speaking words.
The other terms are “teach, reason, exhort, answer, speak, charge, ministrate, prove, confound, relate, expound, confirm, explain, persuade, confute utterly, greet, address, speak in defense, admonish, draw out, set forth, cry out, talk and say”.
Many words are used in references to both church leaders and unordained average, normal believers.
PERSONAL WITNESS WAS THE NORM
There are at least a dozen examples of PERSONAL WITNESS IN ACTS:
We first see the Apostles after Pentecost, represented by Peter and John out soul winning in Acts (3:1-16);
Then Peter is also witnessing in his exchange with Simon (8:9-24);
We find the personal soul winning account about Phillip in Acts (8:5, 26-40);
Paul is an effective soul winner in his exchange with To Lydia in Acts (16:13-15);
Paul even takes the spiritual challenge of witnessing to the Demonized Girl in Acts (16:16-18);
Under great personal pain and peril we find Paul the soul winner leading the Jailer and his family to the Lord in Acts (16:19-40);
After a violent confrontation Paul is undaunted and shares a witness with Sergius in Acts (18:6-12);
Paul wins a fellow Jew to the Lord named Crispus in Acts (18:7-8);
Paul patiently instructs, reasons, and then wins two seekers named Aquila and Priscilla in Acts (18:24-28);
He goes on to win a mighty servant for the Lord named Apollos in acts (18:24-28);
Then he leads to salvation some who were ready but only had gotten as far as being disciples of John the Baptist in Acts (19:1-7);
Finally, in spite of shipwreck, near execution, near drowning, snake bites, and criticism Paul has a witness to fellow passengers and Roman Sailors in Acts (27:9-44).
WHAT STOPS US TODAY?
Why would anyone on the Team ever stay up in the stands and cheer for the TEAM instead of standing, playing, and winning with them? Probably one of three reasons:
Being unsure you are on the TEAM. What is the Solution? MAKE SURE.
Here is a prayer you can pray, a prayer that declares your desire to transfer your trust to Jesus Christ alone for your eternal salvation. This prayer can be the link that will connect you to God. And if you pray it in faith, God will receive you.
HAVE YOU COME TO CHRIST FOR SALVATION?
If you are empty, call out to Christ. Do not let yourself go through another day without coming to him. Be born again, receive life, be filled, be delivered, and join the victory parade!
If you are spiritually dead—without resurrection life—under sin—under guilt—empty, Christ invites you to come to him:
Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare. (Isaiah 55:1, 2)
The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!” Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life. (Revelation 22:17)
I know that I am a sinner and there is nothing that I can do to save myself.
I confess my complete helplessness to forgive my own sin or to work my way to heaven.
At this moment I trust Christ alone as the One who bore my sin when He died on the cross. I believe that He did all that ever will be necessary for me to stand in your holy presence.
I thank you that Christ was raised from the dead as a guarantee of my own resurrection. As best as I can, I now transfer: my trust to Him.
I am grateful that He has promised to receive me despite my many sins and failures. Father, I take you at your word.
I thank you that I can face death now that you are my Savior.
Thank you for the assurance that you will walk with me though all of life and finally through the deep dark valley.
Thank You for hearing this prayer.
In Jesus' Name. Amen.
Being unprepared, unpracticed, unskilled in the ministry of witnessing and soul winning.
Solution: That can end tonight. Just take a moment and be sure you have your tool kit ready. Mark in your Bible one of many wonderful ways to point someone to Christ. We call this the Romans Road. It starts by a note on the first spot inside your Bible that is easily visible. Write Romans 3:10.
Now turn there with me and write:
# 1 “WE all have SINNED” (note the emphasis in v.11 “none”, v. 12 “all”; note sins of word v. 13, deed in v. 15, habits v. 16, neglect v. 17, irreverence v. 18) then write by the conclusion v. 23 “WE ARE ALL SINNERS”. Then put (5:8). By Romans 5:8 write:
# 2 “Christ DIED FOR SINNERS” and put (6:23) then note v. 10 “through the death” (substitution) and v. 11 “received the reconciliation” (imputation). Now go to Romans 6:23 and write:
# 3 “SALVATION IS A GIFT” and put (10:9) by that line. Emphasize Jesus wants to never let you face God’s Wrath against sin, He offers a free gift that He purchased at great cost. Then turn to Romans 10:10 and write:
#4 “ASK THE LORD JESUS TO SAVE YOU”. Read v. 9-10 and 13. Then ask them if they realize they have sinned, that only Jesus the Son of God can save them (because He became the One God punished for their sin and He lived the perfect life they never could). If they say yes then lead them in a prayer crying out to the Lord for their salvation!
What would ever keep us from this wonderful eternal ministry? One last reason: either we are unsure of our own salvation; or unprepared with the Gospel; or because of –
Being Unfilled, Un-Controlled, Un-Empowered, & Un-Guided by the Holy Spirit. Are You Keeping Filled With Christ's Spirit?
Make your prayer be: I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death. (Philippians 3:10)
Our lives can be victorious. Jesus has been there before us; He has met the worst Satan can give and has been victorious. The most important factor in victorious Christian living is to be filled with the Spirit of Christ, the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:9). Christ is the victor over temptation and sin. His very words to us are, “[T]ake heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
When Martin Luther was asked how he overcame the Devil, he replied,
“Well, when he comes knocking upon the door of my heart, and asks ‘Who lives here?’ the dear Lord Jesus goes to the door and says, ‘Martin Luther used to live here, but he has moved out. Now I live here.’”
When Christ fills our lives, Satan has no entrance. In response to each of the three temptations, Christ answered with Scripture (Deuteronomy 8:3, 6:16, and 6:13). He knew the truth of, “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you” (Psalm 119:11). Why is this so? God’s Word reveals God’s mind, and God’s mind cannot be subject to sin. Therefore, if we fill our hearts with His Word, His Spirit fills us and sin and temptation cannot dominate.
Tonight are you in the stands or on the field?
Where does God want you?
How about deciding in the privacy of your will to get into the game starting tonight!